So, I'm sure this is a typical newb problem, but I can't seem to figure out the best approach.I couldn't find any obvious previous threads on this, and a web search seems fruitless.


I take a bone blank, shape it nicely to size, make sure it's a good fit, mark out my lines, get out my xacto razor saw, very carefully try to saw on the lines, and by the time I'm done rough filing the slots, my spacing is all screwed up. I suspect that the saw is wandering when I start it off, which is not surprising, since I am trying to saw through bone.


Any good tricks to start that saw off and stay true and centered every time? Clearly my thumbnail is not a precise enough tool for the job.





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This tool from StewMac is worth it's weight in gold for string spacing. As far as starting the slots once they're marked, I use a .010" nut file to start each slot, then the appropriate file for each string.  


(PS. really, I don't work for StewMac :)


Great minds think alike! that's exactly how I do it, with exactly the same tools!

And no, I have no connection with StewMac, except as a satisfied customer..

I have the rule, and I like it - I think the ideas with the file are good, and so is the awl scratch. I suspect that xacto saw will just wander no matter what I do. Thanks for the ideas!
I scratch the line with a sharp awl or exacto knife leaving an actual groove, which I am then able to follow with my exacto saw.
I start the cut with a knife edge jeweler's needle file.  I can't see any reason to saw them.
Like Howard said you should not have to use the saw.If you take the bone down fairly close to the hite you want it.Then you can do it all with the nut files. It would apear that you are trying to leave to much bone .Good luck on your next try.Bill..................
I thoroughly agree. Saws leave square bottomed slots, what good is that?

Mark, can you take a photo of how you hold your saw when your are cutting the nut. Exactly the same way you hold it.


Okay, No prob.
Couldn't resist - here's the actual grip. I think I am hampered by the size of the handles on the tools I use - I have huge hands, and those handles fit about as well as a toothbrush handle.

Ok. That got one question out of the way. How hard are you holding it, there shouldn't be any strain in your hand. The size of the handle might be a problem, with the size of your hand, but it might not.

Also, there could be to much "meat" on the bone, and that could cause the blade to move, I can have the same problem with the same saw that your using (and any other saw) if Im not watching what Im doing. Try taking off some of the top before notching.

If anything, scrap wood is so cheap its free. So it never hurts to practice and play with new ideas. I would not want to toss out three bucks worth of bone, so wood works great. Practice Practice Practice, that all my thoughts.



P.S. try waxing the blade with a candle, it will not help the the side movement but can aid in the cut.

Thanks for the hint. I actually have plenty of bone to practice on - I got a couple of large chewing bones from Petco, sliced them up on the bandsaw, put the pieces in a jar with some acetone, and let them sit for about three months. They are great, and I've had plenty for several guitars, but much cheaper then commercial bone. (And I get to pick what part of a piece I use for a saddle or nut, kinda nice.)


I've also discovered that using the cheapo welder tip files to basically burnish a slot leaves it nice and round, and it seems a little smoother than with just the nut files. Go figure.


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